Ever watch a cat or dog chase their tail? To be sure, it is quite humorous. The real question is when was the last time someone watched you chasing your tail?
As I reflect on various chapters of my life I know I was chasing my tail. I also hear friends and colleagues share various experiences from the lives, it strikes me that some of us are just as guilty of chasing our tail as our beloved four-legged friends. While cats and dogs literally chase their tails for no good reason, we humans figuratively chase ours. Here are a few thoughts to consider.
Look at the Circle
Are you running in tight, crazy spirals? The kind that feels fast, frenzied, and dizzying? It does not take long in that type of tail chasing to recognize you are, in fact, running in circles. So it becomes easy to identify the pattern and attempt to stop the cycle.
The tougher challenge is those large, slow, looping circles that may actually lull you into believing you are gracefully gliding through the current chapter of your life. If you return to the same place and outcome multiple times, you are chasing your tail.
Seldom in the animal kingdom will you see an older, wiser creature chasing its tail. In contrast, the human race is not immune to repeating old habits regardless of age. The truth is, we never really stop chasing our tail in one area or another until we finally agree to learn from past experience. Input from trusted friends and loving family can certainly help us break old habits, but each of us must come to our own understanding of the forces that drive us to chase our tail in the first place.
Don’t Get Involved
It’s not wise to stick your hand into the middle of someone else’s frenzy while they are running at full speed. I did that once when one of my cats was so engrossed in chasing his tail that he seemed to have forgotten all other things. What I did not know was that the cat was intent on biting the catch as hard as he could once he found it. My hand substituted for the catch. Wow, that hurt.
Yes, I stopped the cat and saved him from who knows what, but I paid a big price. As noble as trying to stop someone else’s frenzy may sound, there is a point at which outsiders must stay out of the way. It’s far easier to intercede and assist with helping someone stop a cycle in the early stages before the momentum builds.
Break the Cycle
Attempting to stop running in circles is to agree to make a change. Change a habit. Change an attitude. Change a belief.
That said, one of the toughest things about embracing change is getting stuck in the cycle of convincing ourselves that our past habits have been successful and, due to that success, there is no need for a change.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]In business, the market has a funny way of showing us we are foolish to NOT embrace change.[/perfectpullquote]
They insist on using old, stale ways to get their message across and wonder why sales have dropped or business is going to the competition. It’s change my friend. If you are one of those owners or managers who believe in operating that way, you know, saying “we’ve always done it this way”, you may just be chasing your tail.
Question: In what ways have you discovered you have been chasing your tail?
In the fast-paced world of business, it’s easy to lose sight of your most valuable principles. Even the best of leaders get overwhelmed with progress happening at what seems like the speed of light.
As I visit with leaders at all levels, I find a need to return to a couple of very basic ideas. For me, the greatest truth I find is the notion of “harnessing the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection.” The repetitive urgency of this message has me re-posting it annually. Perhaps I should do it even more often.
It’s All Around Us
For quite some time, I have been a student of management and leadership. The topic is not limited to just the business world. Rather it is all around us. I believe our world is in serious need of solid, meaningful leadership. I don’t mean the kind that wears red or blue, but the kind that truly inspires us to do more and be more.
Yet the “more” is not only about corporate growth. I mean ‘more’ in terms of life; seeing those around us thrive and prosper intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well as financially. A real leader can help do that. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership role is formally appointed as in head of some community group, or informally ordained for a bunch of well-meaning volunteers.
Leadership can raise the bar of success regardless of the domain it influences.
We need leaders in all sectors of life. Yet what distinguishes some leaders from others? From my observations both being a leader and working for great leaders, I find one common bond. The best leader has found a way to harness the power of harnessing your mind’s attention with your heart’s affection. This is a phrase my Pastor taught me a few years ago. It sums up so much. But what does it mean? And how does it apply to make you a better leader, right where you are?
The Mind’s Attention
Much has been written about the power of positive thinking. For decades we have heard about “you are what you think”. No doubt a positive mental state adds much to one’s ability to focus and thrive. Likewise, a bad frame of mind can draw you down into a deep depression and even suicide.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for working on positive thinking, eliminating limiting thoughts, and building your mind muscle for more positive thinking. A wise old farmer called it “getting rid of stinkin’ thinkin’.” The Bible calls it renewing your mind. I’m all in favor of that.
As much as having a great attitude about your outlook and the daily regiment is powerful, it can only go so far. Someone once said, “If thinking the right thoughts is all there is to the final outcome, we’d all be brains on a stick.”
No, the best outcome takes more. Your mental ability to reason and apply teachings from the past builds knowledge and wisdom. Putting your brain in gear to run at its optimum capacity is a force all by itself. Yet recurring demand on the mind without a passion for what you are doing ultimately leads to burn-out.
The Heart’s Affection
Our heart must be engaged. Our passion must be summoned to give fuel to the fire. It is the fire. When a person becomes passionate about their cause, there is little anyone can do to deter them.
Passion gives us the energy to climb mountains, cross great divides, and leap tall buildings (ok yes that sounds like Superman). This heart’s affection for a purpose gives almost unstoppable energy to any situation.
Workers who have not had their passion for the job tapped into will only perform at a modest level. This is why making employment selection is so critical for employers and employees alike. Make the wrong fit, and your passion will never rise up. Yet by finding work where you can become passionate, you can inspire others.
Passion alone though will not sustain your effort. You must have the power of your mind to process the steps and actions necessary to thrive.
Harness the Power
Binding both parts together can achieve great things. Great minds don’t go very far without a heart filled passion. Conversely, passion can be wasted without a clever mind to design a solution.
The best leaders know how to do both. They are driven by a sense of purpose which fuels the passion. Their heart’s affection is a dominating force. In conjunction, they have their mind’s attention fully engaged, finding solutions to problems and devising great alternatives to the hurdles that come up.
Leaders leverage this power, catching lightning in a bottle so to speak. You can hear and almost feel the power of the passion in their voice. There is an overwhelming understanding for the wisdom in their mind’s vision for things to come. You can more easily buy-in to their ideas and direction.
Leaders build this kind of inspiration in their team.
Here’s the Test
If you are in a management or leadership role, do you have both parts engaged and fully deployed? Is your mind flowing with ideas for ways to go to the next level, solving the problems of the day and offering great ideas? Is your heart in it? Do you feel passionate about your cause, your purpose where you are?
One without the other is a broken, unbalanced equation. You might find temporary success, but it will not last. Usually, it will not be enough to get to the next level.
Make an evaluation of this amazing blend of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. If you have been operating too heavily with one and not the other, look around. You might be missing some achievement. You are likely not to be your best.
Take a moment to think about what it would be like to harness this power, with both spheres in better balance, overlapping at the center for amazing results.
PS – I like this reminder so much, I even had it put on a coffee mug. Leave a comment if you’d like one. $10 plus S&H. To order yours, click here
Cracking the code on effective leadership includes a wide range of attributes and considerations. With all the combinations of factors making a great leader, there is one set of personality traits that I find the most challenging for some clients to adjust.
You seldom hear the words “introvert” and “leader” in the same sentence. The common perception is that great CEOs are very outward going, good public speakers and powerful networkers; things that introverts are not known for doing.
In fact, a poll conducted by USA Today cited 65 percent of executives who believed introversion to be a barrier to leadership.
Interestingly, the same article highlights that roughly 40 percent of leaders are introverted — they’re just better at adapting themselves to situational demands. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Charles Schwab are just a few “innies.”
The use of a 360-degree review is common when beginning a coaching assignment. The 360 gives the coach and the coachee a baseline from which we can work. The presence of an introverted executive gets called out in 360 reviews time and again.
The one prevailing observation is that those who report to this kind of manager are hungry for more personal interaction.
As an example, I know one very successful executive who is quite introverted. He is widely respected in his field of expertise, yet those who report directly to him confess a need to “know him better”.
What does that mean? His people say he seldom shares personal info. They have no idea about his view of the world beyond the exact tasks they work.
He is known for being very hard to read. Even coaching with him was difficult because it took a long time for him to really open up about his inner concerns for the changes he thought he wanted to make.
As you might guess, the walls he keeps guarding are the primary factors we needed to focus upon. None of his other desires could be achieved without first breaking through the outer skin that protected his deep introversion.
Busting the Barrier
What I’ve found effective is to discuss the subtle difference between being personable rather than personal.
While some may think this is a detail too insignificant to talk about, I’ve found introverted managers and leaders tend to thrive once they embrace the nuance.
Here’s why it works. First, being personal is a threat to the deeply introverted individual. Voluntarily divulging details of one’s life outside the workplace is a bridge too far. Yet this is exactly the material that fellow workers want to understand.
It’s not about prying into their boss’s life, but rather it’s about getting to know them as a person. From the employee’s view, it’s about answering the question, “can you even relate to me?”
Next, because of the former, the introverted leader tends to shy away from asking relatable questions of his/her employees. Exchanges are all business. That comes across as cold and calculated, nothing more.
As cliché as it sounds, we all still work with people; it’s a relationship thing. By becoming aware of the hunger most employees have for hearing their boss relate to them, the introverted manager must find ways to feed this beast.
This principle applies to all people in positions of authority. You must be able to relate to those who may be following you.
Simple, relatable questions are:
How was your vacation?
How was the weekend?
Did you see that game?
How is ___________ doing with ______________? Fill in with family members dealing with life changes; illness, moves, step changes, etc.
Then as you get answers, tie it to something in your life. Respond with “Yes, I remember when ____________ was ______________.”
Slowly begin adding your own life experiences to the mix. Let the momentum for having more personal interactions build.
Soon colleagues will feel more comfortable around you. Also, don’t shy away from making statements like “Well, here’s what I am thinking.” You can open up by sharing thoughts. You have thoughts, right? As business unfolds and interactions happen, share your thoughts specifically.
By doing so, you reveal the world inside your head and inside your heart. That makes you far more relatable.
Executive coaching is growing in popularity. Former stigmas associated with having a coach are evaporating. There once was a time when Boards only hired coaches to “fix” someone. Now, very successful executives are hiring coaches to grow even further than before. Companies are embracing coaching as ways to leverage their investment in senior managers and leaders.
When executive coaching comes into play, it’s only natural that potential coaching clients (coachees) research the coach. Who is the coach? What kind of coaching does he/she practice? How do his/her clients rate the experience? What coaching certifications does the coach have? How deep is the professional experience? And then, once enough blind trust has been established, the coach is selected and the first coaching session is booked in the calendar.
However, in our conversations with coaching clients, we’ve learned that very few people actually research how to be a good coaching client. How should one approach coaching, from the client point of view?
There is a widespread belief that the coaching experience is entirely the responsibility of the coach and little to no preparation is undergone by the client. And this is interesting. While there are many definitions, types, and methodologies of coaching, coaching clients are aware, at some level, that the coaching experience will be about themselves, their problems/goals, their behaviors/feelings and what to do or who to become to change them, against given goals.
If this were true, as a coaching client, are you naturally ready to go there; diving into your behaviors, your feelings, your identity? How aware are you of what you really want? Are you naturally ready to reflect on your deepest inner workings, your belief system, your values? Probably not so much and it’s OK.
Finding the Edge
We’re not inclined to reflect on the deeper levels of ourselves. At least not as a general habit. But hey, that’s why we have the coaching profession, for those of us who are inclined to do these life searches and, having done it ourselves, we make it our mission to support others in this endeavor.
The thing is, having a good coach does not, by any measure, guarantee you’ll get where you think you want to go. Yes, good and experienced coaches will most likely help you spark some light that you never knew was there and you’ll use that light to shine in new and unforeseen ways in your life. Nevertheless, the road to getting ahead is neither easy, nor comfortable, nor fast. It is, most of the time, the exact opposite: complex, uncomfortable and slow. And, of course, not all coaches are good and experienced.
We’re going to share a few things to consider when preparing for that first coaching session. This will most definitely act as an accelerator for you on your path to your goal and will also help the coaching process reach its authentic conversational rhythm.
Think about your destination
Coaching is a journey. The coach is there to guide you, to make sure you are aware of the road, the scenery, the mud holes in the ground, to show you multiple potential paths towards your destination. However, you are the one to set the destination. It’s OK to not know exactly where you want to go, just make sure to reflect on it and ask the coach to help you identify a destination worth going to. Don’t pick any destination just for the sake of having a coaching goal. If you don’t really want or need it, you’re about to waste time and money.
Adopt the “Me stance”
As a coaching client, you’re there to discuss something that’s going on with you, be it a problem you have, or maybe a big decision you’re thinking to make, it doesn’t matter. It’s about you. Be prepared to have a conversation about you, how you see things, how you believe they affect you and why that happens.
Avoid talking about others (as tempting as it may be), because there’s nothing you or the coach can do about what others do/say/are. You can, on the other hand, focus on how external factors are affecting you, at all possible levels. This is the “Me stance”. Whenever you feel like talking about others, reposition that in terms of how what they do/say is affecting you.
As mentioned, coaching is a journey and one of the things you can expect from the coach is to show you multiple paths to try out. Remain curious about the coach’s invitations to explore.
A good coach will sense things that may be behind what you’re saying (or not saying) and will invite you to put it on the table, with the goal to deepen your understanding of the situation. Instead of questioning the validity or significance of the coach’s questions, go with the flow.
Be curious and explore (especially when it’s about your emotions), because it’s yourself that you are exploring and be assured: you are a fascinating human being and you are totally worth exploring. Without question, you will be astonished by your inner workings, just be willing to open the door.
Coaching is not just the conversation. It doesn’t end when the conversation is over. One of the ways we see coaching going wrong is when the coaching client does not attach any action to commitment. We’re not talking about the cases where the client hasn’t yet reached a high enough level of awareness of the problem, that would allow assuming the responsibility for the action.
No. We’re talking about when the client is aware of the problem desires to do something about it, yet he/she manages not to. There are many reasons for this, of course, most of them being traced back to a fear of something.
Be sure you will reach a place in the coaching process where you will need to commit to achieving your goal. In your endeavor to do so, you will be tempted to not do it. When those temptations appear, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to see your goals happen. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]Doing nothing changes nothing.[/perfectpullquote]
Learn from the coach
At some point, maybe you’ll start noticing some kind of pattern in the coaching process; some themes that the coach repeatedly invites you to explore. Use this to self-regulate, when you feel you need coaching. What questions that worked very deep for you could be applied to another problem you have?
What have you learned about how you function (rationally and emotionally) from the coaching experience that you could scale for yourself, to tackle new goals?
Basically, how can you be your own coaching client? This, of course, happens after several sessions and depends very much on your general awareness and presence. Keep in mind that the trick with coaching is to reach a place where you can start helping yourself, not to create a coach-dependancy. There will be times you actually need a coach, just make sure you’ve first given it your best shot, yourself.
The coaching conversation is very dear to us and we strongly believe it to be a critical tool in any professional’s “toolkit”, especially in that of leaders. And by the toolkit, we really mean mindset, because coaching is, a mindset. So, we trust the above 5 reflection points will help you in your own experience as a coaching client and we’d very much love to hear your thoughts on them!
The biggest buzzword in Human Resources these days seems to be “Big Data”—the idea that we can now gather so much complex information about our workforce processes and can churn that data into a meaningful analysis that will help us better manage our business. Like our federal government, however, we in HR can sometimes be accused of over-engineering, as in the proverbial definition of a camel being a “racehorse designed by Human Resources”. Still, we spend lots of time and resources on gathering and crunching numbers to either improve our processes or possibly to justify our professional existence.
In my last corporate assignment, our Big Data arrived each month in the form of a four-page report that contained about 125 statistics. I, personally, thought that only about three of them were really significant. That could explain why I no longer work there, I guess. Still, the question… have we become so fascinated with Big Data that we continually miss what I consider to be one of the most singularly important pieces of data in the HR world?
One of the largest public accounting firms in the world, Deloitte, conducted research that showed that their 55,000 employees were spending 2,000,000 hours per year on the annual, employee performance appraisal process (“Reinventing Performance Management”, Harvard Business Review, April 2015). On average, that computes to over 36 hours per year, per employee.
Deloitte determined that the return on that time and expense investment was unacceptable. Only 42% of their executives believed in any correlation between the appraisal process and increased employee engagement, improved performance, or enhanced bottom line. Like others, they have made some adjustments to their process but at last report, they continue to complete an annual, year-end, summary process.
Unlike others, however, Deloitte should be credited for gathering this data. Many Human Resources and C-suite executives in other companies seem to accept the inevitability of the annual appraisal without question.
The Dating Game
The vice-president of HR of one of the largest online dating services in the world, when asked about their program’s effectiveness responded: “While I don’t have any data, per se, I know my people and our process works well here.” Why do so many organizations spend so much time tracking and improving efficiency and profitability in other operational units while HR, at least on this issue, seems to get a “pass”?
How much time are employees spending on the annual review process? The research is sparse but telling. The least documented time data is found in the Society for Human Resources Management website, showing managers spending as little as eleven hours per year on the process. Research conducted by iSi Human Resources Consulting in Houston shows managers spending significantly more.
Big Numbers for Big Companies
The general manager of the Fluor Corporation’s Houston office tracked his actual hours spent on the process in 2008 and found that he invested 400 hours (ten weeks a year), of his time in the process. That ten-week commitment to the traditional process was verbally validated by the same online dating service HR executive mentioned above. An engineering manager at NASA who was recently interviewed said that he is responsible for producing formal appraisals for 43 different employees, three times per year and he is not allowed to delegate any of that responsibility. He spends about 1,000 hours on the process each year; almost one-half of his occupational life!
While these numbers may first seem unrealistically large, caution is advised. HR professionals will want to take ownership of this issue, conducting research to assure an adequate return-on-investment for their organization. Everyone in the HR world seems to be concerned with “big data”. It is difficult to imagine any bigger data than knowing the total amount of time, money, and resources organizations are committing to the appraisal process and, of course, the dollar value of the benefits or outcomes.
HR executives who determine that “the juice is not worth the squeeze,” will want to consider creative alternatives like Big Five Performance Management at www.bigfiveperformance.com. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”What have my people done and what are they going to do?”[/perfectpullquote] “Big 5” has been in use since the late 80’s but has only recently been thrust into the corporate limelight. Big 5 is a simple, yet sophisticated way to cut to the heart of the employee performance issue.
The whole Big 5 process can be summed up this way. At the end of every month, have each employee submits twp shortlists:
What are the five biggest accomplishments this past month?
What are my next 5 priorities for the new month?
This process takes no more than 10 minutes per month per person but gives employees the chance to tell-their-story, taking credit for their contributions. Managers then have the opportunity to respond with affirmation/praise, coaching, and even correction, re-directing the team member’s efforts. DaVinci said that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” We could not agree more.
When a full year passes, you now have 60 data points from which you make your assessment decisions; employee rankings, merit awards, bonuses, etc. No need for really big data here.
Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up – Three wise words shared with Mothers of the Groom for wedding planning and etiquette. A friend whose son was getting married recently shared this with me. I had heard it before but had forgotten the teaching. It sounds cruel but it has merit in the situation. After all, weddings are for the Brides, right?
As this triplet rang in my ears, I realized there is a leadership teaching in here too. In a world of complex managerial challenge and voids of bonafide leadership, the ways executives and business owners conduct themselves takes center stage. These three gems just might hold some valuable truth.
When you are in a position of authority, you have to suit up every day. I don’t mean dress slacks and ties or dresses, I mean putting on your full wardrobe of talent and experience. You just can’t leave anything behind. Forgetting about the knowledge and experience you bring to the job can be fatal. You have to be prepared.
You must be willing to get ready for each and every day. You owe it to your team to come to the office or the plant as fully decked out in mental clarity, emotional energy, and technical skill as you can.
It can be tiring. It can be boring. You might even be tempted to “call it in” every so often. But if you do, you will have personally taken some air out of the room. Your people will know it.
Your team counts on you whether you believe that or not. Consciously or subconsciously they want their leader present. Presence has to be physical and emotional. You have to be connected.
As the moments of the day tick away, you need to be present in each of those moments. The best leadership doesn’t happen at big meetings or forums, it happens in the next minute when someone who works with you needs a question answered or asks for guidance. Great leadership is in those moments.
You don’t need to know it all. Rely on the people who surround you. Ask questions but don’t direct everything. You can guide but don’t dictate. Encourage rather than condemn.
There’s an old saying “it takes ten atta-boys to make up one OH s*&$t!” Your people will respond better to a level-headed discussion rather than harsh critique.
Work to be more of a listener rather than a talker. Use an empathetic ear when your team is talking to you. Either in group settings or one-on-one, be the one who listens more than talks. Measure your words and speak wisely when you do speak.
Find ways to turn issues into learning experiences. Yes, you may have to occasionally take a hard line, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
Three Simple Truths
Suit up, show up and shut up – yes it sounds harsh, especially to Moms who are marrying off their precious sons. At work though, these can be some of the most powerful truths to live by. When you violate any or all of these principles you will find your team or your business operating a level much below your expectation. The problem won’t be your team. It might be YOU.
This is a question I’ve heard asked far too many times in a boardroom or around the table when trying to select new managers. It comes from the full phrase “He/she may be the brightest bulb in the string (string of lights)”. It runs in the same vein as “Sharpest knife in the drawer”, “best crayon in the box”, and so on.
The idea is that we all have top performers on our teams. When a manager job opens up, we turn to high potentials to fill the role. The definition of high potential may be very formal or very simple. Who’s my best performer? Let’s make them the boss. It sounds genuine and logical, but not so fast.
The basic observations that get us thinking about ‘bright bulbs’ might be slightly valid but are seldom complete. The usual metrics such as quantitative data (volumes and output) plus qualitative values (like accuracy and effectiveness) are only part of the right consideration when picking your next team leader or unit manager. Just because someone is one of your best producers doesn’t mean they will be good managers.
If you look at why we think this way, you likely will realize that the argument does make sense. High producers and good workers “get it”. They are committed to the company and their fellow workers. They play nice with others and get along at work. Why wouldn’t you want a manager doing the same thing, right? I argue why would you?
In the late 80’s, the Head of the Management School at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business started a program called the College of Business Administration (CBA) Fellows. The premise was to evaluate sophomores in the Business College. Academic performance (i.e. production) was only part of the evaluation. To be considered, other attributes were included; extracurricular activities, leadership positions in student and community organizations, and other demonstrated behaviors across the campus. Students were selected/invited to join the program. It was deemed an honor to be considered.
Once inducted into the program, students were given extra training and experience like internships and exposure to business leaders of Fortune 500 companies to build their leadership potential. The intent was to track these students long after graduation to monitor their advancement in the business world. The long-term performance of this group was compared to other business graduates who had not had the benefit of the extra development. It was no surprise that the CBA group outperformed the rest of the business school grads.
Extra development did enhance long-term outcome. The takeaway here is that while good production and indications of high potential may exist, you have no guarantee of successful movement into management without some form of added development.
How Does It Work Where You Are?
What do you do when evaluating talent for promotion into management? Do you let your gut tell you who to promote next or do you have a more objective way to define and measure someone’s potential for success? Here are some ways others make better choices:
Define the expectations of managers – First, you have to have a clear definition of measuring a manager’s success. By listing the elements of success, you can better benchmark the potential within a new candidate.
Look beyond current production – Dig deeper into the bright bulb’s wheelhouse. Do they even want to become a manager? Is that a talent they think they have? Use assessments to measure personalities and dispositions for a fit in management.
Evaluate other attributes – Think about other contributing factors that make good managers in your company. Are there work demands like sales, negotiations, or other technical skills required? Are there social demands like meeting clients, public speaking, or attending trade shows?
If you find yourself asking who’s the brightest bulb, stop and rethink your plans.
Question: How do you decide who should become the next manager on your team?
Leading an organization has never been easy. Increasing productivity pressures and demographic shifts have undeniably made it more difficult to be in executive leadership. During an economic boom, as long as organizations are in a prevailing growth mode, board members, shareholders, and the media take a hands-off approach.
However, when these pressures shift, corporate leadership is under intense scrutiny from all sides. Many executives are under pressure to reduce staff and cut costs while using their remaining employees to increase productivity, deliver innovation and build customer loyalty; all while maintaining a competitive advantage.
Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) interviewed 100 of the top executives in Fortune 500 companies they serve. The individuals they surveyed came from 92 organizations within 14 industries. These leaders were in the top two levels of their organizations: 65 percent at the CEO, COO, CFO or President level. The remaining 35 percent directly reporting to them. Forty-nine percent (49%) were in their current positions less than five years.
The LHH format was, by design, qualitative rather than quantitative. Therefore, their report does not include a statistical analysis, but rather reflects the rich dialogue and content revealed during the interviews.
The Consensus or Not
While the 100 executives agreed that the leadership models they previously used don’t seem to apply anymore, there was no consensus on a new model.
Many leaders expressed a sense of having to “make it up as they go along”. LHH heard from each leader that they are analyzing and reflecting on the best approaches more than in the past, but no single solution emerged.
There was an expressed need for a new leadership framework. Why? Because business leaders today are faced with dozens of competing behaviors they must demonstrate. Think of them as paradoxes. The forces from these expectations create a scissor effect, each pulling against the other. Here are the three most frequently reported paradoxes in the market today:
Paradox 1 – Be more hands-on with the business, but less hands-on with the people.
As Andy Lock, SVP of Herman Miller, said, “The challenge is to maintain a strong sense of community — both internally with employees and externally with customers.”
Another leader put it this way “Controlling the business is important, but controlling the people may feel like “over-control” to key performers. Just when a leader feels back in control personally, employee relationships suffer.” Empowerment was frequently cited as a goal for better employee engagement.
Executives felt a need to find new ways to be inclusive. Also to help others develop by giving them increased responsibility to keep them engaged and committed to the organization. At the same time, executives are now more conscious of personally keeping their eye on the day-to-day business affairs in a way that’s even broader.
Paradox 2 – Seek diverse points of view, yet drive unified action.
Leaders cited the need to incorporate many different points of view while fostering collaboration and ultimately getting people to move in the same direction. They said it’s a challenge to focus on encouraging differences of opinion one minute and then shifting to bring people to action the next. It is especially complex in global companies, which have diverse values, customs, and business practices.
A recent research report published by Management Research Group (MRG), a Lee Hecht Harrison strategic partner, cited the differences between U.S. managers and European managers from nine countries. When global organizations are working across various geographic locations and cultures, MRG summarized, “Global leaders need to understand that individuals from other cultures may have vastly different views of what is appropriate or inappropriate leadership behavior. No one is right or wrong, and the combined perspectives of several cultures can lead to even greater success than viewing the world and its opportunities through only one lens.”
There are also more generational differences showing up in the workplace. Younger employees are demanding more input. They are quicker to challenge mandates that are handed out without their participation in the process. As one leader said, “There has been a fundamental shift that is both generational and economic. Employees are looking for their leaders to act on good principles. Corporate loyalty is now even more short-term and transactional.”
Paradox 3 – Promote experimentation and contain risk.
Many executives were promoted to senior management because of their technical skills, experience, and knowledge. They excelled because they “knew the answer.” Current leaders wondered about what their successors will need to grow into their own leadership roles.
A key component of developing the next generation is allowing them to experiment when they don’t know all the answers. Experimentation may result in mistakes but has other payoffs. As Phoebe Woods, EVP-CFO of Brown-Forman, says, “Move fast — you can correct a mistake, but you can’t regain lost time.”
Overcoming paradoxes to lead successfully
These are only the most prevalent paradoxes the leaders in the LHH study identified. Each cited additional examples of having to move more frequently between opposing behaviors to meet the wide-ranging needs of their organizations.
In the next article, I am going to present a leadership framework that just might address the many paradoxes you face.
Question: What are some of the paradoxes you handle each day?
Lee Hecht Harrison
Excerpts posted by permission. Established in 1974, Lee Hecht Harrison is a global leader in creating and delivering customized and fully integrated human capital solutions. With over 240 offices worldwide, Lee Hecht Harrison is dedicated to partnering with organizations and individuals, enabling them to maximize their performance and achieve success.
Lee Hecht Harrison is the flagship brand of Adecco Human Capital Solutions, a division of Adecco, S.A., the world leader in workforce solutions, with over 6,600 offices in over 70 countries and territories around the world.
If you are in a position of management at your place of employment, you have choices to make every day. If you are relatively new to the position, whether due to sudden promotion or career advancement, you likely feel a sense of being overwhelmed. As you get your feet under you, you have even more choices to make.
There’s a way of thinking known as “fake it ’til you make it.” As insincere as that sounds, it is a widespread practice for aspiring managers and those simply trying to survive.
I like to think of this concept as the difference between being an actor or an expert. From time to time I am asked if I am an attorney. Over the years I have worked with so many lawyers, I have a pretty solid understanding of the key principles they use to accomplish their job. So, in many instances, I can talk at deep levels about the aspects of deals being done.
When I am questioned about my law degree, I usually reply “no I am not an attorney, but I played one on TV.” You can have a deep understanding of a subject yet still not be an expert. You can act the part, but not really know the material.
Actors famously study their characters, often pursuing real-time experiences doing the things the person did. The experience builds an appreciation so that the portrayal on screen looks real. Managers often do the same thing. Good managers walk the floor, asking questions about the activity of their team so that they can better comprehend the details and build a base of understanding for what it is they manage.
Leadership is another specialty unto itself. While many think they understand what management is about, few really differentiate leadership from management. After all, we know who the managers are because of the titles given to them. You’ll seldom see a nameplate with “leader” somewhere in the title. Leaders work on the development of their leadership skill set too.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”16″]If you don’t have a following, you’re not a leader, you’re just taking a walk.[/perfectpullquote] Leaders are recognized for their ability to create followers. If you lack a tribe of followers, you are not yet a leader. You may want to be the leader, but without the ability to influence those around you, you are not their leader.
To understand the difference between management and leadership I like this simple explanation; Management is about process. Leadership is about people.
Managers impact the way a team operates. They can set procedures, policies, and practices. Good managers hit the goals, control expenses, and keep things humming. However, leadership gets into the hearts and minds of the people. Becoming a true leader can set you apart from the managers in your peer group.
Becoming an expert at leadership allows you to begin building a legacy of leadership, influencing those who report to you. [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”16″]It has been said the true measure of a leader is not what happens while they are present, but what happens once they are absent.[/perfectpullquote]
Development and Coaching
Business schools have only recently added leadership courses into their curriculum. For decades MBA factories focused on balance sheets, cost control, and finance to teach the business leaders of tomorrow. Then someone decided maybe this leadership arena is worth our attention. Now, going for a post-graduate degree in business will likely have you participating in leadership classes and workshops.
However, if you are already in the workforce and never got that leadership training, coaching is your primary option for expanding and growing your leadership effectiveness.
As I engage new clients we always have an “AH-HA” moment. The light bulb goes off and the client realizes the missing link for the subtle, but significant difference between being a good manager and great leader.
Once that happens, the energy levels rise and the focus on creating meaningful impact grows.
I’ve dealt with very senior managers, C-suite people, who still needed their own AH-HA moments to make the difference. You too can join them in growing your ability to lead others.
Question: What are you doing to develop your leadership muscle, your toolkit for better leadership and influence?
Better than anticipated results have recently been reported for the US job market. According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, “Employers added 223,000 jobs last month, more than economists expected and an uptick from April’s hiring rate of 159,000.” The US Department of Labor released more data.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]“Never before have we had an economy where the number of open jobs exceeds the number of job seekers,” said US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.[/perfectpullquote]
With the lowest unemployment rate in over 18 years and the rise in new opportunities, the competition among employers for qualified candidates is strong. And, with a growing job force, the need for qualified leaders grows too. There is an ever-increasing need for qualified managers with effective leadership skills to guide businesses to achieve the results they expect.
Next Man/Woman Up
Sadly, we are plagued with a business mindset that resorts to promoting the best performer when there is an open manager seat. And, without effective leadership coaching, the person who gets this job either sinks or swims. If they sink, the company loses in many ways. If they swim awhile, they might even get promoted further. All of that without effective leadership training.
In the small business and entrepreneurial realm, we see people with great product and service ideas start companies, but fail within the first 5 years. Why? Generally, because the great thinkers aren’t always the best managers and leaders. The bright idea may only go so far without strong leadership muscle. “If you build it they will come” doesn’t work very often either. Without leadership that can sustain forward progress and growth for the enterprise, the business folds.
Leadership Coaching Naysayers
In another article circulated on LinkedIn, the author questioned the impact of leadership coaching, calling it the “buzz du jour.” He argued we all can’t be leaders, citing an army of generals and no soldiers. The basic word picture is true, we don’t need everyone equipped to lead at the highest levels. Yet we must equip leaders who are put into those positions so that the outcome potential for the organization is realized.
Back to my First Statement
I’ve known too many professionals and business owners who land on great opportunities but quickly hit the ceiling of their own ability to lead. We know this phenomenon as the “Peter Principle.” Or, the observation that in an organizational hierarchy, people tend to rise to “their level of incompetence.”
As people are promoted, they become progressively less-effective because good performance in one job does not guarantee similar performance in another. Named after the Canadian researcher Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1910-90) who popularized this observation in his 1969 book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.
The perceived incompetence for senior managers is seldom about technical ability. Rather it is about the ability to manage and lead a larger team, balancing people issues with business growth and change. John Maxwell calls the Peter Principle “The Law of the Lid”. Leadership coaching can help raise the lid on leadership effectiveness.
Don’t Invest in Coaching, Invest In Results
Busy executives and business owners don’t need reasons to spend money, they need results. Leadership coaching can help you get the right results:
Find new ways to better utilize direct reports
Foster higher levels of team trust
Provide sound advice for change management initiatives
Uncover blind spots in a person’s leadership ability
Raise executive presence
In addition to all of those opportunities, solid leadership coaching also provides the Executive with a private and confidential sounding board for ideas, fears, doubts, and concerns.
“It’s lonely at the top” is a very real and present danger for leaders. You can’t share just anything with anyone. Having a coach to hear the thoughts keeping you awake at night can be very freeing.
On that note let me stress, coaching is not psychotherapy. That is reserved for other licensed professionals. Coaching is about looking forward to a future state you plan to achieve, not looking back at one’s past.
The Choice Is Yours
Whether you believe in coaching or not, someone is going to have to lead the next wave of our growing workforce. Why leave it up to chance?
Before you choose an executive coach, there are things you should consider. Learn more about what to look for from your coach. Click Here.